Yesterday (23 May), Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad announced a 10% pay cut from the basic salary of cabinet ministers with immediate effect, Bernama reported.

The decision stemmed from concern about the country's financial problem and was made at the first meeting of the new cabinet at Perdana Putra.

At a press conference after the meeting, when asked if senior government officers would be subjected to the salary deduction, Dr Mahathir said: "This is a habit of mine because when I first became the Prime Minister in 1981, the first thing I did was to cut the salary of not only the ministers but also the senior civil servants who have a higher pay than the ministers.

"It is up to them (senior civil servants). If they feel they want to contribute towards reducing the cost of running this country, they can do so. We are not forcing them."

Dr Mahathir was the fourth prime minister of Malaysia, from 1981 to 2003.

Regarding the additional salary increment for civil servants promised by the previous government, Dr Mahathir said: "We are not bound to their promises. This promise was made by opposition now. They have not won the election. Nevertheless, we will look at it in a very positive way, whether they deserve to be given some extra allowance or whatever, we will do so."

Earlier this month, Dr Mahathir also announced a reduction in the number of civil servants who are political appointees to bring down government spending.

Elaborating on this, he said the government would cease the recruitment of political appointees and re-engage those in critical posts and with low salaries. He pointed out it was unnecessary to have political appointees as they were appointed merely to accommodate the supporters of the previous government.

Dr Mahathir noted that about 17,000 contract officers were political appointees and some among them had become permanent staff.

Assuring that those with low income will not be victimised, he said: "Those with low income, we will engage them but first we will terminate (their service)."

Photo / 123RF